The Boy Who Cried Beautiful

‘I made something beautiful!’

The boy was out of breath from running down the street from his own door to the door of his father’s workplace.  

‘I made something beautiful!’ he repeated.  He said it as he burst through the front door and didn’t even notice that his father was not present.  He gladly regaled those who were there with this joyous news anyway.  

‘I made something beautiful!  I made something beautiful!’  He was getting his breath back and starting to laugh it out now.  Dancing on his toes he exited the building and skipped down the busy main street repeating and repeating his euangelion.

No smiles were returned.  People scarcely gave him eye contact.  It was just possible he would suddenly desist before it was too late and it would be well if no one had ever really acknowledged his deadly error.

But he kept on and then they heard the swift heavy hoofbeats, a deep distant tattoo at first and then very quickly, too quick for comfort, the equine thundering was upon them.  It was surprising to be able to hear amid that violent noise the sleeker lethal sound of well-honed blade leaving scabbard in a practiced rush.  

The boy was heedless, still heralding his glad tidings and holding aloft in both hands his creation, thrusting it at this person and the next in ecstasy of proud craftsmanship, the shocked delight of one who can’t believe what his hands have produced.  This creation hit the ground and rolled over a handful of times long before the boy’s head hit the earth.  The clean stroke that took it from his shoulders sent it high and arcing over the bystanders, only a small scarlet thread of blood describing its arc in a beauty none would dare to admit.  The body stood erect and shuddering, a far more profligate spray erupting where the head had been, people near grunting out little gasps and shrieks as they cracked into each other trying to leap away from its staining.  

But the sound that would stick with them all above all these others was the sound that was repeated in every similar circumstance and had to be locked away from consciousness.  The boy’s refrain went through twice more in the air and was half way through a third when the head hit the ground and rolled and continued to repeat ‘I made something beautiful!’ in muffled and then open and then muffled and then open tones, accreting mud into the working mouth.

The horseman sheathed his scarcely bloody blade and made a return pass in which he leant far down off his horse like a showman at the annual fair and scooped up the still declaring head and stuffed it into the wooden box that always hung at his saddle, clapping the lid shut and drowning the declarations to a nearly inaudible mumble amid the hoofbeats.  

They watched the rider out of the main street and then returned swiftly to their affairs, trying not to think of the boy’s father about to return from whatever task had taken him from his place of work, trying to control their shaking, those who were not yet hardened and reconciled to this reality.  They all unconsciously stepped round the fallen creation, leaving it lie without further acknowledgement as custom-law dictated, its convolutions and functions forever unknown.  The shuddering body of the boy was not far from the ignored creation and it eventually crumpled into a heap that the refuse men would hurry to clear away as soon as they had been informed.

At the edge of the town a massive pit opened its hidden entrance to the approaching rider and the noise that roared from this opening would have deafened the rider did he not have his ears ready-plugged against it with the special wax the witch-men made.  He opened the box and tossed the little head with its little words into the chorusing onslaught of the very same, the little voice lost in the unison cry of the crowd of heads all calling out:

I MADE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL!  

I MADE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL!

The entrance to the pit came crashing down again in a cloud of dust and the clang of its closing helped ram the noise it cut off from the rider’s mind.  He wheeled his horse and returned to his post, one of several such tower-and-livery structures placed evenly about the town.  

The townspeople too had heard the burst of refrain from the hidden crowd of heads in the distance and they too sought to shut it from their minds, throwing themselves into their work with renewed vigour.  The thing that had happened paradoxically caused the rest of their work day to be one of their most alive and productive, carrying a mood of zest and resultant happy exhaustion right into bedtime and waking on the next morning.  Not a few babies were conceived that night.  It was an intuitive and wholesale conspiracy of focus and contentment against the dark of what they lived with.

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[Note: this is the first draft of a story I began to write earlier this year.  It has 3,000 more words so far but I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to really get down to polishing a real version of it.  Such is the case with a dozen or more stories I’ve written, each piece two to seven thousand words in length.  This school year will be given over mainly to my dissertation, so who knows when and if I’ll have space in my life to get down to the serious business of fiction writing.  It’s a lifelong dream and I just can’t tell if it’s one that supposed to finally bow out and die or struggle on to some level of fruition.]

Here is a monster for you… (Micro-fiction Creature Lab # 1 – first take) WARNING: horror imagery

Here is a monster for you:  the length of a couple of cars, let’s say, tubular, covered over in spikey tines, long and tapering to needle-sharp points.  The form is slightly curved, curled this way and that, but still, dead still.

Then the tines quiver from one end to the other of the thing, as if riffled by a sudden breeze.  But the day is perfectly still and sunny.  There is no movement in the hot air and yet you are chilled by an icy finger on your spine at the sight of those giant needles shivering without wind on that curled tubular form before you.  You had seen the thing a block away when you rounded the corner on this strangely quiet street and you had noted its stillness, its complete immobility as you approached.  And now a ripple has gone through it, softly and unnervingly shaking its sharp spikes from one end to the other, a movement that makes the gooseflesh stand out on your tingling skin, even on this hot day.

It’s only now that you can begin to make out its colour.  The pointy tines that cover it had been glinting steadily in the sun all along and now they sparkle and flash with the sudden motion.  But the thick rounded form from which the spikes protrude is some kind of darkly purplish red, so dark you’d taken it to be black.  But now you see the deep blood redness in it, as if it were a translucent skin bloated with blood – tons of blood.

The thing moves again, but this time vertically.  Its entire length, still prone, appears to levitate a foot or two off the ground.  But you see in another moment this is because a chorus-line row of cold white legs have emerged from under it all along both sides of its length.  The many legs are thin but clearly strong as they kick out rapidly from one end to the other and move the form forward, its whole tubular bulk winding and seeking first this way and then that and then, unmistakably, toward you.

You’ve long since frozen to the spot and only become more rooted there in shock when you see how fast the thing closes the remaining distance between you and itself.  Your muscles and brain finally connect in the urge to flee when the thing, mere metres from you, rears up half of its double-car length, legs scrabbling at the empty sunny air of this strangely quiet and unpeopled street.

Before you can spin away and bolt, however, you’ve glimpsed its underside.  And that sight extracts your volition from you with a force that is instantaneous and absolute.  Your instinct knows it cannot flee a nightmare in daylight.

Underneath the thing you see – calling to your own, which tremble in reply underneath your living meat – the bones of your long-dead ancestors fused into horrible new shapes dense with ribs and knotted spinal columns and the conglomerated holes of empty eye-sockets and open mouths.  A concatenation of limbs-on-limbs spiders outward in every direction from that horrible centrepiece.  The whole gruesome bonework display is a formation that the last shred of your disintegrating reason tells you is too large and deep to be contained by even the huge underbelly of the many-legged thing rising up and overshadowing you.

Your own trembling bones heed the call of the ancestral bones before them and, answering back, strain underneath your skin toward the underside of the rearing thing.  You can feel your own skeleton betraying you as it makes to step rippingly right out of its ever faithful suit of flesh and leap into the ancient bone-fusion now coming down on you from the descending form above you.

And you think a final thought:  how in the world did I end up on this road, so strangely quiet and unpeopled?

(photo by Flannery O’Kafka)

Thus Spake the Zygoat… (excerpt from ‘Loretta and the pig’ story-in-progress)

A high shadow detached itself from the whole territory of shadows.  Like a tree of darkness felled from the darkness around it, the shape loomed out at them, gargantuan, ten Lorettas tall, horned and bearded in the manner of a goat, upright in the manner a man.  The distinct clop of a hoof, magnified to a boom, sounded as the form stepped forth.

The pig cried out the cry of horror-recognition, squealed and back-trotted, flinging the colour-emanations from his eyes in barbs and whiplashes.  Loretta’s fingers dug into the pig’s bristly nape with instinctual terror, yet with the urge to fight too.

‘No!’

The pig finally managed to articulate that monosyllable rather than merely squeal and cry, hooves back-clacking in the dark.

‘No, no, no, not you, not you…’

Something clicked in the pig’s throat and then he groaned.  The colours from his eyes settled into their cascade again, though he trembled.

Loretta made to sooth-hush the pig when the giant goat thing spoke.

‘Fear not,’ it said to the small company crouched before it and its huge wit-slitted eyes flamed a little in all that dark.  The colours listing out from the pig’s own eyes broke upon the dark goat, but illumined its vast form not at all.

The embered eyes of the goat descended and enlarged.  It squatted over them now.  The impulse to scatter was strong, but the basso profundo of the goat’s voice had spelled them to the spot, immovable.

The eyes turned themselves directly upon the pig.  He felt the heat of them and shivered.  It was the hotness not of temperature but of attention.

‘Your goat officemate, oh pig,’ the great goat said in an expansive and explanatory tone that surprised them, and they were held inside the cadences and scarce-guessed meanings of its subsequent speech, ‘he was just an impostor who got into your head and through your head into, and even above, the cosmos.  You saw his mega-parsec horns and eyes and teeth rising above the event horizon of existence?  He is a chimera of your devising.  I on the other hand, I am the Zygoat.  Yes, I am both embryonic and frisky, as my name suggests.  I am the jump-point to all ontic antics (for all quanta are alive and kicking in the end – do you not feel them bump you back?), butting and birthing as I leap.  I am not the jump off point into the abyssal dismissal.  No, I am not the destruction-goat, the Null-Goat, as you imagined when you saw me here in the dark, as your goat officemate pretended to be when he thought to casually murder a computer girl-ghost in his heart.  Yes, yes, I know of it.  But more importantly, I know of the third goat, the Scape-Goat, who has made the way for my frolics and seminations with his own throat-spilt blood, the way for all of us.  You are worried because you have heard that the goats go off to perdition, and it is true.  But those particular fauna-hides are only their parabolic guises.  (Recall that the holy Tabernacle was covered in goat skins too, oh you little-faiths!)  It was the same way with you, dear pig.  You were emblematic of impurity until the Scape-Goat Lamb-God bled on you and made you delicious, beloved, clean, included.  I, the left-handed goat, in the same way became acceptable and accepted.  So it is that I, Zygoat, am the archangel (each one of us is called the archangel, fear not for Michael’s glory).  I am guardian of embryos, individual as well as cosmic.  You have weirdly entered a weird back entrance into my weirded realm of fractal matrices.  You are welcome.  It will probably kill you to be here.  That is good.  We have only good-death here.  Should you be rejected, you will be ejected only into old-life.  Your good-death will then have to wait, hopefully not forever.  Pig, I will now take the colour-emissions from your eyes.  The dark will be its own light to you here, dear pilgrims.  But first, you must take and eat it.’

The pilgrims began to do so.

As If Shades Knew Not

This is a self-contained piece of ‘microfiction’ or ‘flash fiction’ that I attempted a while back.  I’ve now incorporated it into a larger story.  I’d love to hear from people as to whether it does or doesn’t work (on its own) and how or how not.  (The story’s title, ‘As If Shades Knew Not’, is from a 17th century poem by George Herbert called ‘Evensong’.)

 

Angie says this city’s a living thing and I say I already knew it ever since mom took me out the door to the places she always had to go every night after night and I felt its yellow breath in my collar and its lamp-lights fixed their dots onto  my eyes and never went away even during the day and the hard pavements hit my feet hard and became my bones all cracked and crudded for everybody to walk on every day and night under the lamp-lights on my eyes and the cries down those blind alleyways from cat-people and people-cats, torments and loves and torments and loves and all the things I thought I would never ever in a million city-years know but I know now because the city’s a living thing Angie said and I already told her I always knew it from the time I spilled onto the concrete with my mother into the night after night of walking on the pavement-bones past the skeleton-tenements full of skull-prominent tenants ranting about rents in the pavement because my bones are cracked and crudded the doctor said because he’s a mouth of the city and the city wants me to know it knows I know it lives just like Angie says this city’s a living thing and I already know it the way I know about heavy kisses in the dark and how the city takes us back into its bonework and veins like it’s taking mom the way she’s half in and half out but only heading in, her skin grey cement now and she says I did it but I didn’t because my bones are cracked and crudded for everybody to walk on, the city did it and it knows I know and never lets me go.

Image(photo by Flannery O’Kafka)